Handicapping the GOP Presidential Field, After the DeSantis Disaster
Author: Greg Valliere
May 25, 2023
Here’s our top ten and more —
Longshots: They include South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and the ultimate long shot — Kevin McCarthy. What if he gets a budget deal? What if he gets voted out as House Speaker? McCarthy could have a lot of time on his hands by Christmas.
10. Chris Christie: He’s blunt and funny and fearless, one of the most watchable politicians in the country. But the former New Jersey governor is a fierce critic of Donald Trump, which pretty much rules him out as a serious Republican challenger.
9. Vivek Ramaswamy: He’s running as the idea guy, like Democrat Andrew Wang did in the last election. Ramaswamy is a new face and is good on TV. He would bring fresh blood to the race, but Ramaswamy is running for name recognition, not the presidency.
8. Asa Hutcinson: Also good on TV, the former Arkansas governor is relatively moderate and likable. But where is his opening?
7. Chris Sununu: A feisty moderate, and a strong Trump critic, the New Hampshire governor could win the state’s primary next year. Is there a lane for someone like Sununu? He’s a sleeper.
6. Nikki Haley: She’s been running for a couple of months, but the former United Nations ambassador’s poll numbers have barely budged.
5. Mike Pence: He’s raising money and traveling through the country, looking like a candidate. Pence has strong support from conservative Christians, and could break into double digits in some early primaries.
4. Glenn Youngkin: It’s tempting to place him higher, but first the Virginia governor has to declare whether he’s running. If he is, Youngkin could be a formidable challenger, with plenty of money, a likable personality and — most importantly — he could win the general election.
3. Tim Scott: He’s off to a good start, with lots of money and favorable coverage from the media. Republicans in the Senate have nothing but good things to say about Scott, who — at the least — could wind up on the ticket as a running mate.
2. Ron DeSantis: Not quite ready for prime time, as he showed last night. DeSantis is hugely popular in Florida but is still an unknown in much of the country. He likes to pick fights and is prepared to run to Trump’s right. Could his campaign blow up in the next few months? DeSantis needs to get up to speed, fast, on non-cultural issues like geopolitics and economic policies.
1. Donald Trump: His polls are astonishing. Trump leads DeSantis in several states by over 30 points; neither indictments nor gaffes seem to affect his rock-solid support among the GOP base. But could Trump win a general election? Maybe not, which for Republicans is the strongest reason for voting against him.
BOTTOM LINE: Joe Biden looks remarkably vulnerable, afflicted by economic anxiety, a surge of migrants, his age, urban crime and his son Hunter. Even Democrats don’t want Biden to run again. We think he could beat Trump; he’s done that once before. But a fresh, young Republican could become president — possibly DeSantis or Scott, but the potential candidate to watch is Youngkin.
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